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War Stories

An Duc Extraction - 4 Nov 1968


summary by Dale Dow - updated 1 October 2020 bap

First person Videos: (1) Warren Larson, (2) Garrett "Moose" Marcinkowski, (3) Joe Owen, (4) Jim Filiatreault, (5) Barney Wood, Bruce Karn.

See emails: Owen, Martin, Davidson, Rice, Nielson, Fillatreault, Gouge, Gabreilson, Karn, Galloway, Marcinkowski, Messina, Acker, Dow

Aircrew Members, Aircraft Losses, Personnel Losses, Glen Gouge Photos, see Map, download big map.

Rick Williams letter home, 3/4 Cav Squadron Log Book for 4 Nov 1968
Please review and send any input that you might have directly to the webmaster
(John M. Filippelli, Barney J. White, Gregory L. Phillips, Rick Wil liams, Tom Meeks, Jim Filiatreault, Joe Owen, Raymond Trouve, Jim Messina,John Gabrielson, Bruce Karn, Clay Maxwell, Mike Galloway, Glen Gouge, Garrett Marcinkowski,Howard Keith Rice, Roger Martin, Paul Davidson, William Reavis, Richard Boucher, Bob Acker, John Albers, Pat Carrigan, Eddie Coopage, Barney Wood, Alan Nielson and Richard Setter.)

This synopsis of actions involving the Aero-Rifles is based on the memories of several of the pilots, crew members, and Aero-Rifle infantrymen who were assigned to Trp D (Air), 3d Sqdn, 4th Cav on 4 November 1968 and on the Daily Staff Journal (DSJ) prepared by the S3, 3d Sqdn, 4th Cav that recorded the events for that day.

The memories of several of the pilots recalled that the Aero-Rifle Platoon lift elements made several insertions and extractions on 4 Nov. The DSJ records that the slicks inserted LRP Teams 15 and 17 and extracted Teams 24 and 25 during the mid-morning time frame. The LRP insertions and extractions were completed by approximately 1115 hours. The Aero-Rifle infantry platoon’s activities began in the late morning of 4 November 1968.

Late Morning to Mid-Afternoon
At approximately 1130 hours, (in the Hobo Woods near the Saigon River) LRP Team 14 engaged a sampan and requested gun ship support and extraction. At about 1220 hours, LRP Team 14 reported 15 VC within 50 meters of their position. D Trp scrambled a LFT and the Aero-Rifles to the LRP 14 position at that time. The Aerorifles were inserted near the Team 14 position with negative contact. At about 1250 hrs, the Rifles spotted 1 VC and pursued the individual. (Spot Report: LA D Trp 30/ LB 1 VC/ LC XT644297/ LD observed 1 VC SE of LRP Team 14 location, VC moved along stream line to the SE, D Trp LST is on station trying to located this VC, D Trp Aerorifles are sweeping to the north, northeast at this time/ LE cont mission.) The Rifles made visual contact with Team 14 and continued their sweep to link up with the LRP team. The Rifles linked up with Team 14 and moved to the location of the sampan that Team 14 had engaged earlier. After checking the sampan area, the Rifles and Team 14 moved to the south.

At 1350 hours, Centaur 12 reported a tunnel complex and the Rifles moved toward that location. (Spot Report: LA D Trp 12/ LB 1 tunnel complex and bunker 4’ X 5’/ LC XT648298 time 1350/ LD D Trp engaging w/rockets at this time, then Aerorifles will check out the are/ LE cont mission.) At 1430 hrs, the D Trp slicks departed the Corral to pickup the Rifles and LRP Team 14. The extraction was completed at about 1445 hrs and the Rifles and Team 14 were returned to Cu Chi.

Late Afternoon and Evening
There has been some difference in memories about where the main action of the day took place. At the 2000 reunion in Lexington, the Aero-Rifle infantry men who were there and telling their story indicated that the battle was near Hoc Mon. In a series of messages received from several of the pilots and crew members, the locations varied from Go Da Hau (XT387251), to An Duc (XT 535181), and Phuoc My (XT 587153). The VHPA has the action taking place at XT 529181, west of An Duc. The squadron’s SDJ has most of the activity located in the XT 5417 and XT 5416 grid squares (An Duc Area).

The Aero-Rifles were given a mission to search an area in XT 5417 and XT5416 (An Duc). The SDJ does not identify the headquarters that assigned the mission to the Rifles. Once on the ground, the Rifles linked up with one of the local Vietnamese Regional Forces (RF) units for the operation. (Since the RF was involved, the mission may have come from 2d Brigade.)

The Aero-Rifles departed Cu Chi at approximately 1626 hrs enroute to the vicinity of CP 08 (XT 543177). The Rifles landed and linked up with the RFs at about 1638 hrs. At about 1712 hrs the Rifles and RFs were moving east toward the location they were to check out. The Rifles spotted a tunnel entrance at XT 543163 and checked it out. (Spot Report: LA D Trp 30 (Aerorifles)/ LB spotted a tunnel entrance/ LC XT543163 time 1725/ LD preparing to check it out as this time.) The Rifles reported destroying the tunnel at about 1750 hrs. (Spot Report: LA D Trp 30/ LB tunnel complex/ LC XT543163 time 1750/ LD destroyed with explosives.) The slicks departed Cu Chi at about 1815 hrs to pick-up the Rifles. While the slicks were enroute to the PZ, the Rifles found another tunnel at XT 542163 and destroyed it. (Spot Report: LA D Trp 30/ LB 1 tunnel/ LC XT542163 time 1825/ LD destroyed with explosives/ LE Aerorifles enroute to pick-up zone.)

At approximately 1835 hrs, the slicks reported receiving fire and one ship going down at XT 553138. Commander, B Troop was alerted and began moving the Bravo 20 element to the area of contact. At about 1842 hrs, D Trp reported 3 ships on the ground at the pick-up zone, that one ship was hit pretty bad, and that dust-off has been requested. The troop reported 1 KIA and 4 WIA. The KIA and WIA were picked-up by Dust-Off 163. At about 1933, the troop reported 2 of the 3 ships down at XT 543133 (the coordinates may be a typo and should be 543163) had been destroyed. The troop reported at 1949 that it had 4 ships down at XT 543163, that B and D Troops were setting up perimeter, and had 11 WIA and 1 KIA.

The 242d Assault Support Helicopter Company (ASHC) attached to the 25th Avn Bn lifted out two of the ships by about 2049 hrs. B Trp was put OPCON to 2d Bde for the night. Bravo 20, one platoon from 2d Bn, 12th Inf, and the Aero-Rifles secured the 4 choppers at XT 543163. One platoon from 2/12 Inf secured another chopper until it was removed by a Chinook from the 242d. B Trp was to return to squadron at 0600 hrs while an element from 2/12 Inf remained to help the Aero-Rifles secure the downed aircraft. The ship that went down vicinity XT 553138 was extracted by 2321 hrs.

The cleanup of the PZ (Pickup Zone)
The cleanup of the PZ took two days to complete. On 5 Nov at about 0930 hrs, the S3 received a report that there was a down chopper at XT 563164. The chopper was supposedly dropped by Chinook. A check was made with the 242d ASHC and they said that they had to set the chopper down due to bad rigging and that gun ships were circling the area for security.

At 1005 hrs, it was reported that all the helicopters had been lifted out of the PZ. D Troop reported at 1116 hrs that all helicopters had been evacuated, including the one that caught on fire. That the Aerorifles will move up to CP 8 and be picked up and taken to the Trang Bang FSB (FSB Steward) by C Trp and return to CU Chi on this afternoons convoy.

At about 1132, C Trp reported picking up the Aero-Rifles and the RF/PF and was enroute to FSB Steward. At around 1159 hrs, B Trp was notified that there was a piece from the helicopter that the 242d had dropped in the vicinity of XT 580160 and that B Trp was to retrieve the item and get it back to D Trp. C Trp was directed to have one platoon secure the area where the helicopter parts were. Dismounts from the C Trp platoon policed up chopper parts in the PZ. Centaur 5 went to the area and picked up the scrap metal and 2 transmissions at about 1540 hrs. The final load of helicopter parts was brought from FSB Steward in the afternoon of 6 Nov 68.

Partial listing of the aircrews:

••Aero-Rifle Slicks
CW2 Filiatreault, James
CW2 Gabrielson, John
CW2 Gouge, Glen
CW2 Galloway, Mike
CW2 Mattison, Russ
CW2 Rice, Howard "Keith"
CW2 Roger Martin
SP5 Davidson, Paul, Door Gunner
SP4 Acker, Robert Door Gunner
SP5 Phillips, Greg (KIA) Crew Chief
SP5 Albers, John Crew Chief

••Aero-Rifle Infantry
CPT Reavis, William (Centaur 35)

1LT Rick Williams
CW2 Karn, Bruce
CW2 Maxwell, Clay

••Command and Control (C&C)
1LT Owen, Joe
MAJ Trouve, Ray (Centaur 6)

UH-1Ds Destroyed and Damaged.
The number of UH-1Ds damaged or destroyed is either 4 or 5. The VHPA’s Vietnam Helicopter History identifies 4 ships that were damaged or destroyed on 4 Nov 68

UH-1D 64-13757 was a Loss to Inventory (Destroyed)
UH-1D 65-09659 was a Loss to Inventory (Destroyed)
UH-1D 65-09663 was a Loss to Theater (Sent to CONUS Depot)
UH-1D 66-01165 was Repaired in Country (20th Trans Co)

Personnel Losses
The SDJ records that D Trp reported 1 KIA and 4 to 11 WIA. The troop lost 3 troopers that day. The exact number of WIA has not been determined.

Filippelli, John M. CPL Aero-Rifle Platoon Infantryman

White, Barney J. CPL Aero-Rifle Platoon Infantryman

Phillips, Gregory L. SP4 Aero-Rifle Lift Platoon UH-1D Crew Chief



Letter Rick Williams to Tom Meeks 9 Nov 1968

by Rick Williams

Reference The An Doc Extraction of 4 Nov 68

The day of 4 November 1968 the 35 element of the Centaurs (Aerorifles) were hit hard. Rick relates this story

to Tom Meeks who had returned to the States a few weeks earlier.

Jim Filiatreault's slick was hit by an RPG killing Crew Chief Greg Phillips and Aeroriflemen John Filippelli and Barney White

Dear Tom ,

What you do boy? I’ve been meaning to write sooner, but I never have been a good letter writer. As you’ve probably noticed by now, I’ve enclosed a bank statement and also the recipe of my mother’s chocolate chip cookies which comes off a Nestles package which I didn’t know. My mother says she adds more nuts, but other than that, the recipe is right on the package. She also says these are easy to burn, so watch them carefully when baking.

Well, since you’ve been gone we have been doing nothing but LRRPing up around the mushroom and along the Saigon river to the East. Every damn time we put a team in, they come out again that same night.

Bad1But, let me tell you the big new around here these days. We inserted the 35 element and a POW about 1 click south of An Duc on the 4th and the POW was supposed to point out a weapons cache. As usual no cache was found, so the 5 slicks came in to pick the 35 guys up.

Maxwell and I were covering. Just as 35 was getting on the slicks, everybody calls “Receiving fire”—in less than 3 seconds, 2 slicks get hit with RPGs, another slick is shot up so bad he can’t make it out and of the 2 slicks that did take off, one had to land about 1000 meters east because he didn’t have any oil left. The one slick that did make it out OK came in for a dust-off and he was shot up and couldn’t get out of the LZ. So, 5 out of 5 slicks were TOTALED.

Maxwell and I were shooting rockets all over the place, but as always the VC were dug in and we didn’t do a hell of a lot of good. In all, we had 3 KIA and 7 WIA. Captain Reavis has been evacuated to Japan with wounds in his chest, leg, and throat but he’ll be OK. To top everything off, a Chinook dropped one o the slick carrying it back to the Corral and it burned to nothing.


Actually, we came out smelling like a rose considering all the fire that was being taken. Well, so much for that.

Man, I’m getting’ so short these days it ain’t funny. Down to 16 now without a port call drop. Why don’t you write me a letter soon and tell me what you’re doing. Everyone would like to hear from you. Tell “Mama” and your “Rug-rat” Hi. What do you hear from James R.?

Your buddy,


bad3 bad4











Joe Owen: Light Scout Section Leader: I have a very vivid memory of this day. The rifle platoon was put on the ground to sweep through a village. I don't remember the name of the village, but it that always had a VC flag flying. I don't recall the reason for the sweep mission. No contact while seeping the village.

I was flying C&C for the troop commander; MAJ Trouve who was new in country in an OH6A. It was getting late in the afternoon and the CO approved the pick of the rifle platoon from the same area as the drop zone.

I recommended a different PZ, but then I was just a Lieutenant and the lift/blue platoon leader who was on the ground was a CPT wanted to use the same location.

When the Hueys set down all hell broke loose.

B Troop came in to secure the area and someone came in to pick up the dead and wounded. I don't remember if was our ships and crews or from other assets at Cu Chi.

The lift platoon/rifle platoon leader was one of the wounded.

When the Troop Commander and I got back to Cu Chi we had about 5 minutes of fuel remaining and it was dark.

The next day was spend getting the damaged aircraft out and the rifle platoon back to Cu Chi.

I took command of the Aero rifle (lift) and blue platoon after it was ambushed during extraction late in the day. Several of the blues were killed, the Blue platoon leader (a CPT) and others were wounded, and all of the huey’s were badly damaged.

One of the ground troops was deployed to secure the platoon location and we conducted the recovery operation in the morning. I was flying the troop CO, Maj Trouve as C&C during the extraction. We received all new aircraft (UH-1H models) and had to rebuild the confidence of the pilots, crews and riflemen. If my memory is correct this happened in early Nov ’68.

We spent several weeks receiving new UH1H model aircraft and training for the lift and rifle platoon elements.

We incurred the most losses in one single action/day for the Troop since the Jan 68 Tet offensive.

As they say, the rest is history.


Roger Martin, WO1 slick copilot with CW2 Keith Rice.see photo

This is my recollection of the events of November 4, 1968:
I was a member of D Troop (Air), 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment stationed at Cu Chi, Republic of South Vietnam. The crew of our aircraft consisted of pilot-in-command (PIC) CW2 Keith Rice, SP4 Gregory Phillips, crew chief, (4th Crewmember was SP5 Paul Davidson CE), and me, WO1 Roger Martin, co-pilot. On the morning of November 4, we flew multiple missions inserting and extracting LRRPs (Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols) in various locations.

In mid-afternoon, we were alerted to attend a briefing for an arms cash and an insertion of our aero-rifle platoon in a LZ, located near the village of An Duc, Hua Nghia Provence about 5-10 klicks W/NW of base camp Cu Chi. We flew as a flight of 5, with our aircraft as CHALK 2.

We departed our base camp mid-afternoon, inserted the aero rifles near a graveyard, departed the LZ and returned to Cu Chi to await extraction orders for the troops. In the early evening we departed base camp and landed in the same area to pick up the aero rifles.

As the troops were boarding our aircraft, mortar, automatic weapons and RPG fire landed next to and on our aircraft, causing numerous casualties in and around our aircraft. We waited a short time as casualties were loaded into our aircraft and then followed lead out of the hot LZ.

We had suffered numerous (over 200) hits from the hostile fire. CW2 Rice was flying the aircraft, and I was checking on the intercom as to the condition of the rest of the crew and passengers. I got no response from SP4 Phillips, our crew chief, and looked behind me and saw his head slumped over on his chest.

We had at least a dozen caution lights on our panel indicating the results of the multiple hits we had taken. We ascended approximately 500 ft., and flew approx. 500 meters when the lead aircraft notified us, “Get out of your aircraft. You are on fire!” We immediately descended and landed in 4’ of water in a rice paddy. Upon landing, I immediately jumped out of the right seat of the aircraft, and went back to assist SP4 Phillips. I unhooked his seat belt, and he fell on top of me, causing me to go under water. With the help of another solider, I was able to get back to the surface and carry him to our lead aircraft, which had landed within seconds to evacuate all of us. I put him on the floor of the aircraft, laid next to him, and checked for his wounds. He had no pulse, and was not breathing. We took off, and landed at the medevac pad at the Cu Chi Hospital within 3-4 minutes. The doctors, nurses, and medics unloaded our casualties. The lead then dropped the rest of us at the Corral, and departed back to the LZ to evacuate more casualties. I was told that upon reentering the LZ, the lead aircraft was hit by enemy ground fire and crashed into the LZ. Total time from the ambush in the LZ to delivering the casualties to the hospital was less than 5 minutes.

CW2 Keith Rice was wounded in the calf from shrapnel and still did a great job flying our damaged aircraft and landing in the rice paddy under partial power. I can’t remember who the crew of the lead aircraft was, but I do remember how grateful I was for their heroic actions that day. Thanks guys! We lost three brave soldiers during the An Duc Extraction and they have always been in my prayers. Roger


Paul Davidson: Hog Door Gunner flying in a Slick that day: Captain Reavis was in charge of the ground element that day. This was our fifth flight into the same location that we were using for a PZ and LZ. I was crew chief on the third ship in a staggered flight of four.

Just as we touched down the grunts started piling in when the whole world turned to shit. The lead ship never stood a chance and got hosed down from radio box to tail rotor. The second ship took a mortar round through the roof. The third ship took a B40 rocket through the rotor blades just as we started to lift off. (I wonder if I should of wrote that one up as a hard landing?) The fourth ship did manage to lift off, only to get hosed down itself. However, it did manage to make it as far as the highway. We formed a hasty perimeter

Captain Reavis was standing on a paddy dike, like John Wayne himself, pointing to individuals and telling them where to move. Old Charlie liked that because they could adjust their fire accordingly. Myself and another troop, whom I can’t recall, was crawling out to the lead ship to turn off the rotating beacon when Captain Reaves got hit from an American hand grenade.

It was, I believe, the third time that day we had used the same LZ. We got out of the kill zone and followed another ship which was trailing smoke a few hundred yards down to a paddy. That was the ship Specialist 4 Greg Phillips was KIA on. I went over and kinda helped drag CPT Reavis back to our ship, got the guns, etc. Reavis was shot in the neck. We dropped ‘em off at 12th Evac and went back for wounded. Then got our own dumb asses shot down.

Anyone else there that day, I would like hear about it. To this day I don’t really remember too much except many KIA and WIA. Oh! And some really mean men with RPGs and automatic weapons hanging around behind a berm.


Howard "Keith" Rice:

Sorry it has taken me so long to answer this request but it has taken me a while to get my thoughts together about an incident that happened so very long ago. That being said here is the account of what happened to the best of my memory.

The day started early for the blues. We were tasked with the mission of inserting the Aerorifles at different locations to scout and recover rice from locations pointed out by a prisoner that had been captured. The Aerorifles were inserted using five slicks from D troop.

I was PIC of Chalk 2 of the five ship formation. The mission had been going smoothly until the last location.

Although the rice caches were found at 2 or 3 (I can't remember how many locations we went to) but none were located at the last location. Some of the blue crews were in the mess hall when we got the call to extract the Aerorifles from the last location for the day. It was late in the day (Seems like right after the supper meal).

As we landed in the PZ the three aircraft behind me were hit with either RPG's or mortars (not sure who was hit by what) and the PZ was taking small arms.

Myself and Chalk 1 waited in the PZ to load some wounded. I followed the lead aircraft out of the PZ and made it a
short distance from the PZ before I had to make an emergency landing in a rice paddy. Lead followed me down and took the personnel that were on my aircraft back to Cu Chi.

It was in the rice paddy that I realized that my door gunner had been killed. We were dropped off at the hospital at Cu Chi and the lead aircraft went back out to make further pickups. I think that he was shot down on his return.

That is the best of my recollection of the incident. Sorry that I do not
remember any names of people or places.


Alan Nielson: Aerorifle Medic

What I somewhat remember about that day was we destroyed several bunker complexes and lots of rice bags. When it came time to be extracted the 5 helicopters came in to a very hot lz. Fire was coming from the jungle. Machine gun and tracers and small arms.  I got on the last helicopter ( a picture is in the article of the downed helicopter).

We made it up to about tree top height. I could see the other helicopters in front being bombarded with small arms fire and not getting airborne. A B40 rocket hit ours and we went down hard which threw me and others out out in the clearing. Then over the jet sound of the whinning engine I heard "Medic, doc!!" 

I knew to get away from the downed copter in case it exploded. I ran to a downed aerorifleman White and couldn’t help him, and then to Fillipelli. He had been hit by the blades of the helicopter apparantly as the back of his legs were just bones exposed. He died as I was giving him morphine.

From there I assisted others to their wounds until we could get a medivac in. The rest of the men set up a perimeter and returned fire. Stayed the night there as B troop came to help. Next day was taken to Fire Base Stewart and then back to Cu Chi.

Some of this is still sketchy as I had tried to forget some of the fire fights I was in.


Jim Filiatreault: Dec 2014 - Slick PIC that was hit by an RPG: John Filipplli was part of the Aerorifle platoon. He was not a door gunner on my aircraft the afternoon he was killed. We were doing some insertion operation in an area called the Graveyard and to my recollection we used it too many times, during the last incertion a B40 rocket hit my transmission and blew it out of the aircraft rotorblades slung into the dirt the pintle hook was shot into the aircraft radio compartment of the aircraft to my rear. As with all hard landings the tailboom ripped off. I think we had primers on board. I don't know exatly how John died but when we were evacuated 4 hours later I was helping carry one man with only bones on his lower legs I'll try hard to remember more Jim.


Glenn Gouge: For the life of me, I cannot remember the PIC I flew with that day. We were number 4 going into the LZ, behind Filiatreault and Galloway. I was watching the aerorifles coming to the aircraft and thinking something isn't right. As they were loading onto the aircraft they were getting as close as possible to the back of the armored seats, and as we started to lift the Center of Gravity was way off, I had turned in my seat and was telling the rifles to move back, then the radio traffic went wild. When I faced the front what I saw was unreal, helicopters going down, tracers coming in from what seemed everywhere, rifles unassed our aircraft; lots of incoming rounds to our aircraft; a big whump to the front of our aircraft. I thought we had been hit with an RPG that didn't detonate (found out much later it was the cargo hook from Filiatreault's aircraft). My door wouldn't open so I was going to go over the console and out the cargo door, foot got caught between the console and seat, got that fixed and was on the ground. I don't know who Galloway helped onto a helicopter but it wasn't me, I didn't get so much as a scratch.

John Gabrielson: Slick Pilot. I was flying right seat in the lead aircraft (flight of 6) with (Mat) Russ Mattison. I have lots of pictures of our aircraft (Nov. 4, 68), it was pretty much the way Joe Owen recalls.

We all were getting low on fuel circling, the Aero-riffle platoon was dragging there heels, finding AK's and trying to bring them with, Monsoon Rain was headed our way, going to get dark soon, decision was made to use LZ for PZ as Mat and I hovered light on skids (sounded like skids were creaking) it was AK rounds riddling up our tail boom, at 7:00 position a mortar or RPG took of about 3 feet of our main-rotor, that blade ripped of the greenhouse, nicked my helmet (I have my helmet as a souvenir), the other blade tore out the transmission, ball of flames surrounded me, main rotor blade hit ground in front of my right door. I pulled exit handle and hit rice paddy.
All is history from there.


Bruce Karn: Scout Pilot, Centaur 13, flying in a Cobra: 5 May 2002: All though I was a scout pilot I was flying front seat in a Cobra when the extraction was to happen. I was with Clay Maxwell and we were the wing man on the mission. We were overhead and saw the entire show happen.

As I recall one UH-1 made it a little ways and then went down. And as stated the ground cav troop came charging down to help secure everything overnight. The next morning was very foggy and I flew a grunt captain and a bunch of slings out to help their APC to be lifted while trying to pull them out. It was quite a scene to behold. Even though there were losses it seemed watching it from above that the losses would be much greater than they were. I remember the frustration being overhead and trying to get contact established and some information on what the injuries were etc.

Also, as I recall one of the UH-1 was dropped while being slung back. There wasn't much to work with before the drop but much less after that fall.

It's events like that that make take different routes to work and continue to break my patterns to this day. What a scene of RPG's, small arms and mortar rounds.


Mike Galloway: Gun Pilot flying Slicks. I remember that day in 1968 as well. It was an evening extraction at a village called Phuc My, or Phuroe My, or something like that. I was a gun ship pilot but when the call came to extract the Blues, I was asked (or perhaps directed) to fly right seat in a slick with Jim Filiatreault. I believe we were number three in a flight of five hueys.

On final approach to the LZ the first slick went a little long, which turned out to be a good thing, as that crew, a short time later, was able to pick up the crews from the two aircraft behind him. They may have even picked up others, I do not recall. We started receiving heavy fire while on short final which, as I recall, was from the west. It was an ambush! The Blues on one side (our right) and the bad guys on the other. The ship I was in took a lot of small arm hits plus a direct RPG hit, which separated the transmission and rotor from our aircraft.

There was one or two passengers in the back of our aircraft of which one, for sure, was killed, and I don't recall the status of the other. After the initial explosion, I looked to my left to check on Jim, only to find him gone! I didn't see him until later. He was okay. We were also greeted with mortar rounds, one of which damaged and jammed my door and armor protector. I had to exit the ship via the right side door. Another impact to the aircraft helped me out the door and into the rice paddy. I believe that the wet and muddy rice paddy helped to save lives and reduce
injuries, as it absorbed some of the mortar impact.

Once in the paddy, I crawled to the ship in front of us. On the ground was a pilot (name?). He was wounded in the throat or the upper chest, or perhaps both. I helped him into the ship and started to climb in myself, when the aircraft started to lift off! I decided to go with it and hung onto the strut. In a moment I was airborne and struggling to climb into the aircraft. I remember being upset that the gunner wouldn't help me with the wounded man or try to help pull me into the aircraft. I found out later that he was mortally wounded. A round had hit him just behind his chest protector and really tore him up.

Once I was in the aircraft, and after checking on the wounded guy, I looked up to the cockpit only to see what appeared to be every red and amber light in the cockpit illuminated! We didn't stay aloft long as the ship went down only a few hundred yards from where it left. I'm pretty sure that it was the lead ship of the flight that came in and picked us up.

I found out later that during this transfer from one ship to another, we were under ground fire. I also recall the approach and landing at the medical facility, as the ship was heavy, it was damaged some, the wind was not exactly in our favor, and tail rotor authority was beginning to surrender its control. In the end, the landing was successful and all was as well as well could be on that evening in 1968.

Moose Marcinkowski: Troop XO flying Slicks: Joe; Moose Marcinkowski here. You are right. The village was Go Da Hau and this was our 4th or 5th pickup of the day. I was flying slicks that day and had made four insertions which took up a lot of time and my desk was piling up with paperwork. I asked Glen Gouge if he would take that last mission for me so I could clean up the paperwork. He did so and has not let me forget it.
It was a classic case of don't go back to the same LZ/PZ.

As XO at the time it was one of the few times I got to be part of multiple lifts in and around the Vill. We had made four insertions and extractions already without incident. As the last mission time grew closer I asked Glen Gouge if he would sit in for me while I tackled the paperwork on my desk. He agreed and hasn't forgiven me since. The problem was we picked up the rifles in THE SAME SPOT WE DROPPED THEM OFF. Not much difference between a rut and a grave.

We actually lost 5 slicks in the fight. The rifles acquited themselves well and one of the ground troops in the area helped with the extraction. It will be interesting to resolve memories of that day before we forget again.

Jim Messina: Jan 2015 - Was in the maintenance area during the event. As you know, except for an occasional "door gunner" ride in a D model doing ID checks, I wasn't a crew chief. 67N20 nonetheless.

After burning out twisting wrenches, on my back on the creepers, doing 100 hour inspections, I jumped at the opening in aircraft supply. I had essentially a first shift job working with Rich Andersen.

I recall finishing for the day, probably showered then nursing a beer out behind the hooch by the big bunker in the enlisted men's area, a few steps down from the pub.

I saw Slicks head out in a direction looking over the motor pool of some unit behind us. I saw some accompanying C model gunships with them. I could see the Slicks descend into the LZ off in the distance. The gunships circled. I remember thinking and mentally timing how long the Slicks were down to pick up the troops before they came back up.

It was taking longer than expected. Then I could see tracer fire and perhaps the gunships shooting.

Almost immediately unit area sirens were heard. Oh oh. This was not good.

I recall too, much helicopter trafficking to and from Cu Chi to that site as the evening wore on.

My point is I could see, from the back area, over that motor pool behind, off in the distance, where all this took place.

Unless I imagined this, it was not more than a few miles from Cu Chi.

I seem to recall the troops were inserted and extracted in the morning. They were at home base for lunch. Then were put back out there again after lunch.

The discussions were about the failure to follow the rule of not using the same LZ repeatedly because this is a possible outcome. I have no idea who was in charge. I was just a witness to a real mess and understand several people were appropriately decorated for bravery under fire.

I remember going to the operations building as things were winding down. Crew who were there were worn out and exhausted. They had been through the wringer.

I was getting short, had my R&R to Sydney coming up in a few days, and was focused on getting the hell out of there.


Robert Acker On the afternoon that we left base camp to pick up the Aero-Rifles I got booted off my aircraft where I normally flew as Door Gunner and was assigned to another aircraft. Another soldier was to take my place. It was all hurry, hurry, hurry. I didn't even know who I was flying with at that time. We reached the Pickup Zone but the lead aircraft had landed just a little short and we had to hover around a bit and land on a different berm, perpendicular to the rest of the aircraft. It looked something like this: - - - - - - |. I was on the right side gunner's well and had a perfect view of the line of choppers, the dry paddy, the little treeline and the ship I was booted off of and the ambush. It was quick. That's when the ship I had been kicked off of was hit and SP4 Greg Phillips who had taken my place was Killed In Action.


Dale Dow: Jan 2015 Centaur Historian. John Filippelli was a member of the Aero-Rifles when he was KIA on 4 November 68. Barney White, an Aero-Rifle, and Greg Phillips, a crew chief, were also KIA. Several Aero-Rifles, crewmembers and pilots were wounded or injured. The troop lost 4 slicks destroyed and one badly damaged.

The 4 Nov 68 fight is talked about briefly in the letter that Rick Williams sent to Tom Meeks about a week later. The letter, along with some photos of the slicks, is on Rick’s page.

This was another royal screw up by the commander and the Aero-Rifle platoon leader when they decided to use the insertion point as the extraction point. The VC were waiting on them. Fortunately, one of the ground troops (B Trp ??) was nearby and was able to move to the contact and relieve the Aero-Rifles and downed chopper crews.
I had moved to MACV on 1 Nov 68.

I found out about the 4 Nov fight at the reunion in 2000. Pat Carrigan, Eddie Coppage, and Barney Wood were there and told me about the fight. They said that the platoon had worked the area for a couple of days and used the same area as an LZ and as a PZ each day. On 4 Nov, the platoon leader refused to listen to the experienced NCOs and insisted on using the same PZ. The VC were waiting on them.

Dale Dow Jan 2015 Historian
The battle took place at coordinates 529181. If you have a 1:50,000 topo, you can find it. It should be near the village of An Duc which is about midway between Trang Bang and Cu Chi. The different sources that I have checked give the same coordinates of 529181.

The platoon leader was a pilot by the name of Reavis (William A.). For some reason, the non-rated position for the infantry section wasn’t filled for several months after I left the troop in early Sep.

White and Filippilli were hit before they got close enough to get on a chopper. The slicks were hit either as they were landing or as the infantry were heading to them to load. Only one UH-1D made it out of the LZ and it only went a short distance before it had to land.

Phillips was a crew chief and was hit by small arms fire. (He may have been on Filiatreult’s ship.)

There was a fourth man killed on 4 Nov, A troop by the name of SP4 Setter, Richard A. is listed by Coffelt as having been KIA in the action. Coffelt and the Wall site have Setter as assigned to Co B, 65th Eng Bn. I am going to contact some guys and see if I can get additional info on Setter. He may have transferred to D Trp and orders reassigning him had not been cut before he was KIA.

The Coffelt data base of Vietnam Casualities used a lot of information from the VHPA. The VHPA has the slicks listed as hit by small arms and rockets and leaves the impression that the slicks were loaded with troops when they were hit.


Download the larger PDF version of the map (4.5 megs)

Photos from Glen Gouge album:





Photo of CW2 Keith Rice and CW2 Roger Martin (200 hits)


3/4 Cav Squadron LogBook for 4 November 1968